Sky Scrapers in Alice Springs - The Controversial Melenkas Development

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Image: Karl Steller
Much debate has recently surrounded a development proposal for the old Melenkas site. Melenkas was a backpackers which doubled as the town’s ‘premier’ nightspot for many years. If you lived in Alice Springs during the time it was open you will most likely have cringe worthy stories of nights at Melenkas (See Facebook Group 'I'm Smarter than Melenkas' for further details). You’ll also probably have stories of great nights at Melenkas. Melenkas did add a certain feel to the town, that it was bigger than it really was, meaning that on any given night you were bound to meet someone from interstate or overseas. You were also bound to run into people that you knew, good and bad. That guy you snogged and left hanging on the dance floor? Yep, he’s bound to be back there next week, testing your powers of skilful avoidance. Melenka’s was sold in 2006 to a Queensland company, who after a series of unsuccessful half-assed renovations, demolished it. The lot remains vacant, save for a few old river red gums.
In the latest development permit application submission for the site, the developers (I am unsure if they are the same company who originally purchased the site or a new company) have proposed to build mixed use development of five buildings, one of which will be five stories in height. The development will consist of town and three bedroom residential and short stay apartments and a commercial floor area, including a licensed venue. If the proposal goes ahead it will give the Alice Springs CBD a much needed injection of people. Once businesses close up for the night the CBD is almost deserted, save for a few pockets of open restaurants. Drastically increasing the number of people living in the CBD, as this proposal will do, will increase the number of ‘eyes on the street’, as Jane Jacobs says.
There are a number of controversial aspects to this proposal, including the clearing of all trees, save for the really old ones (ie the Registered Sacred Sites), and the ground floor units not being above the Q100 flood rate (see Alice News for more). However, the most controversial aspect of the proposal is the proposed five story building, two stories above that which is allowed in our Development Control Plan. The three story limit has been in place since the 1980s, ensuring that locals and tourists have unobstructed views from Anzac Hill to the Heavitree Gap. We are also a town of only 28,000 people, 5 stories is completely unnecessary.
Local Greens Alderman, Jane Clark, has started a facebook group opposed to the 5 story building. She requests that anyone opposed submit a written objection to the Development Consent Authority*. The majority of the Alice Springs Town Council have thrown their support behind the development proposal, pending the outcome of a traffic study and arborist report. Alice Springs has a shortage of long-term accommodation and it would be ridiculous for the Council to knock back a proposal that will increase accommodation. NT Planning Minister, Delia Lawrie has welcomed the debate surrounding the 5 story proposal saying that any decision on the project will take into account what the community wishes (see more from the Planning Minister here).
Debate is a great thing. It’s good when proposals come along that test why particular laws and regulations are there. Submissions from the community are great as it gives Planning an idea of where the community stands on an issue. It should be noted, however, that written submissions may not always reflect the views of the community as a whole, just the views of the vocal minority. One is also more likely to submit when against a proposal rather than for it. In yesterdays Advocate there was a response to a letter to the editor about the proposal. The previous letter was encouraging people who support the proposal to write a submission in support, this weeks response letter was saying the opposite and calling for more submissions against the proposal. Looks like we have a great debate on our hands.

*In Alice Springs town planning is under the Territory Government not the Town Council.
My Thoughts - Five stories is a little excessive for Alice Springs, it will probably dominate the landscape. Best to keep to the three stories as per the Planning Scheme

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